ITI's Beth Kurylo wrote a blog featured on the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases blog yesterday for World Water Day. Click through to read the full post.
Every morning and every night, I turn on the hot and cold water taps, adjusting them so the temperature is just warm enough to wash my face. I take for granted that the water will flow. I would be shocked if it didn’t. This easy access to water is a luxury not enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people around the world.
As we mark World Water Day, it is worth noting that 748 million people do not have access to an improved source of drinking water and 2.5 billion do not use an improved sanitation facility. For them, the lack of water can mean poor health, disability and even death.
Water and sanitation is especially important in the prevention and control of trachoma and other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Trachoma is an ancient eye disease caused by a bacterial infection. Left untreated, it can lead to blindness. But we can stop it with the World Health Organization-endorsed SAFE strategy – Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvement.
The following is by ITI Senior Program Associate Birgit Bolton about her recent trip to Nepal.
Health workers in Nepal have started surveys to confirm whether the country has eliminated blinding trachoma as a public health problem. I recently visited Dhangadhi, a small town located near the border of India, to participate in training workshops to teach these health workers how to conduct three survey methods to determine if there is any active trachoma left in communities that implemented the SAFE strategy years ago. SAFE stands for surgery, antibiotic distribution, facial cleanliness and environmental improvements.
ITI Director Paul Emerson met women in Mecha woreda, Amhara Regional State, Ethiopia, who had received surgery for trichiasis, the final painful stage of trachoma that can lead to blindness. One of the women, Yitayesh Tilahun, said the operation was like a “second birth” for her. Trichiasis had previously prevented her from working and she was confined to her house. She was forced take her daughter out of school to assist with the household chores. Yitayesh said she thought her life would consist of “poverty, suffering, and death.”
Yitayesh is proud that she can now "farm, cook and look after her family, just like any married woman." Her daughter has been able to return to school. Yitayesh's story is just one of the many that can be told from the tens of thousands of people who have received trichiasis surgery as part of the global trachoma program.
ITI Senior Program Associates Birgit Bolton and Joanna Pritchard visited trachoma programs in Nepal and Mauritania, which are close to reaching their elimination goals. The next step for them is to plan for surveillance to be sure trachoma does not return.
Two leaders of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) attended the Third Meeting of the Eastern Mediterranean Region Trachoma Alliance (EMR Alliance) in Bahrain, December 18-19, 2014, to support countries that want to request Zithromax® for 2016 treatments. Dr. Paul Emerson, ITI Director, and PJ Hooper, Deputy Director, briefed countries in attendance about the process and timelines for the Zithromax® application process for new countries.
The EMR Alliance was formed in March 2013 to support control of trachoma in the region, which accounts for 18% of the global burden of blinding trachoma. According to the World Health Organization, 11 of 22 countries are endemic in the region and 41.5 million people in the region live in trachoma endemic areas.
Well into 2015, we are in a good posiiton to reflect on ITI's past accomplishments through the end of last year. In the first 15 years of ITI, we have shipped over 444 million doses of Zithromax® for the elimination of blinding trachoma. The past five years saw more Zithromax® shipped than in the first 10 years combined, and last year we shipped 46.4 million doses compared to 1.1 million in ITI's inaugural year.
The above chart illustrates the incredible scale up that the combined forces of a number of partners have accomplished.
You will now find all news and updates in the Blog section, and the Resources section (under About Trachoma) has been completely revamped. Head over to Resources to access important documents on the control and prevention of trachoma.